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Daycare Costs: Can You Afford It?

Aug. 29, 2012
4 mins
A father holds his son up in the air

This past weekend, during a baby shower I was hosting for one of my oldest friends, the ladies and I played baby trivia over punch and cupcakes. The questions, which covered everything from common names to most popular birth months, inevitably sparked interesting conversation. In particular, one of the questions elicited quite a response from our group of mothers: How much do you spend on your child from birth to 18? I knew this one, having already written an article about it earlier this year. I sat back and listened as they crunched numbers.

Interestingly, the ladies included the cost of diapers, clothing, and even sporting activities in their lists, but not one of them thought about daycare. Before I gave them the answer, I nudged them a little further. Who’s taking care of your kids while you work? I asked. Hmmm… Pencils returned to papers, furiously scratching out numbers. The ladies looked perplexed and unhappy. “Yeah,” said one mother, “that number’s got to be a lot higher.” And she was right. It was a lot higher. In fact, from birth to 18, parents spend an average of $242,000 on a single child – and a lot of that goes to daycare. For a good 10 minutes, the subject of daycare – its availability and costs – was hotly debated.

The State of Daycare in Canada

When Canada’s federal budget was announced in March of this year, daycare advocates were disappointed to see that no new funding was issued for the sector. Waiting lists are long and costs are high, leaving many families in financial despair. In Toronto, there are currently more than 21,000 children on the daycare subsidy waiting list. In a city where infant fees can be as high as $1,800 a month, a more reliable childcare subsidy program is desperately needed.

Finding adequate and affordable daycare in Canada is without a doubt a huge challenge for some parents. Unfortunately, Canadians do not have access to universal daycare. If you have children under the age of 6, you can, however, apply for the federal universal childcare benefit. The benefit provides a payment of $100 per month per child. On top of that, many provinces also offer childcare subsidies. Each province and territory (aside from Quebec) has programs set up to help families subsidize childcare costs. The amount of money available varies from province to province, as do the requirements for eligibility. is a good resource for those looking for the right program in their area.

Daycare Stress Goes Beyond Cost

On top of parents' money worries, research shows that subsidized care can come at the cost of learning. Take, for example, the subsidized program in Quebec. The program has two goals: to help mothers of young children return to work sooner and to enhance the prospects of success for kids when they went to school. When it came to mothers’ ability to return to work, the program was a wonderful success. But an article in MacLean’s magazine says that kids of parents who took advantage of the subsidized daycare program did worse on basic vocabulary skills and, therefore, did not better prepare them for school. The report concludes that there is a negative effect on kids who spend too much time in daycare when they are under the age of 3. So what's a busy working parent to do?

How To Choose The Right Day Care At The Right Cost

We all know that it’s easier said than done - for many Canadians, it's just not possible to give up daycare to stay home with the kids. In order to make ends meet, parents need to work. The best you can do is work hard to try to find affordable and adequate daycare. What qualifies "adequate" daycare? Here’s what to look for.

  1. Is the daycare licensed?
  2. How many children are there per staff?
  3. What types of educational activities are provided throughout the day?
  4. Does the daily menu follow the Canada Food Guide?
  5. How safe is the daycare? What security measures are taken?
  6. Is the staff trained in CPR?
  7. Is there scheduled outdoor time?
  8. What qualifications does the staff have?
  9. Does daycare discipline children? If so, how?
  10. Are the children supervised at all times?
  11. Can I drop in at any time to see my child?

These are just a few questions to ask a potential daycare. You may also want to inspect the facility to see if it looks safe and clean. If it meets your standards and it’s affordable, go for it!


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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